A ‘working holiday’ is kind of how we’re describing it, though it’s hard to explain to strangers the work I’m doing: preparing for a book festival, writing occasional travel blog posts (many of which I can re- or cross-post here), editing an anthology and writing a chapbook. Not to mention the research I want to undertake now that we’re here in Scotland. Luckily we have a bit more space in our AirBnB places in Edinburgh. Hostels and staying with people have been fine (and great!) but it’s been very hard to sneak away and work.
Yes, we’re here! I love Scotland. As soon as we crossed the border on the train my mind seemed to shift into a state of literary inspiration, filled with worlds and characters and plots.
Tomorrow the book festival starts here in Edinburgh and I’m going to see Salman Rushdie first. I have no doubt I’ll be inspired this month, but it’ll probably be a matter of working (hard) and absorbing what I can, then letting it unfold when we’re up in the Highlands doing an entirely different kind of work in September and October: at guesthouses and restaurants.
But England was great, despite feeling stressed about my workload. We went to Stratford-upon-Avon, and walked on the floor where young Shakespeare walked. We went to Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in Grasmere. I’m a nerd for literary and cultural tourism. I like to see the places that shaped these minds, and inspired them. Much is known about Wordsworth’s house, garden and lifestyle due to his sister Dorothy, who kept a journal—with all the requisite Romantic references to nature, and emotive writing. Of course, because she was a woman, the needlework unfortunately took precedence over writing. But to her brother she was very inspiring. Like a later inhabitant of Dove Cottage, Thomas De Quincey, Dorothy had quite a fondness for laudanum… I enjoyed learning about her.
We were told about how Coleridge moved to Keswick to be close to Wordsworth in Grasmere, and how the two men would walk across this stunning landscape to visit each other (it would be a very long walk). Sometimes Coleridge would arrive past midnight and Dorothy would make some food for him, and the two men would sit up all night talking and sharing new work. One time Coleridge showed up extremely distressed and carrying a branch as he’d been attacked by a cow on the way over!
G and I could relate to this as we had a very long walk around Lake Windermere in the pouring rain and at one point had an intimidating passage through a herd of cows, some of whom seemed to have escaped from behind a fence. ‘Surely they don’t attack,’ I said to G, but was anxious. They were baying and mooing at us. We realised soon that we were lost and had to pass them again. I’m glad I hadn’t heard the story about Coleridge before that…